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Serbian minister defends Russia deal amid criticism

Belgrade, Serbia — Serbia’s foreign minister on Sunday sought to downplay the importance of a deal with Russia after the Balkan state, which wants to join the European Union, was criticized for signing it.

Nikola Selakovic signed the agreement Friday with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York, where most Western delegations shunned Russia’s top diplomat over the country’s invasion of Ukraine.

=Selakovic told a press conference on Sunday that the agreement was “technical” and concerned bilateral relations, but not security issues. Serbia has signed similar documents with Russia since 1996, Selakovic insisted.

“The government could have rejected such a plan but there is nothing contentious in that,” he added. “He is criticized by those who have not seen him.”

The consultation plan covered by the agreement is expected to last two years, the Serbian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Friday. Serbia is officially a candidate for membership of the European Union, but the government maintains good relations with Russia.

News of the deal drew heavy criticism from the pro-EU opposition in the country and some European politicians. A member of the European Parliament from Germany, Viola von Cramon, suggested the possible suspension of EU accession talks with Serbia.

“This is a serious outrage,” von Cramon said on Twitter. “In the midst of a raging war, (the Foreign Ministry) Serbia signs the plan for future collaboration with the aggressor.”

Von Cramon added that “perhaps this is just a signal for us to freeze EU accession negotiations because EU entry does not go through Moscow.”

Another member of the European Parliament, Vladimir Bilcik from Slovakia, described the agreement with Russia as a “crucial blow” for the accession process in the Western Balkans.

ABC News

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